Immigration has never been an easy topic to discuss; there are essential reasons for people to move from their native country to a different location, and these reasons alone are nothing to be happy about. In addition, the very fact that one is going to settle in a completely unknown place, in a probably hostile atmosphere, with the people of completely different traditions and mindset is enough to turn one’s stomach.
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In the USA, the country with the greatest annual influx of immigrants from all parts of the world, the issue in question is more than topical. Since most immigrants manage to keep great integrity when moving to the United States and keep their own culture as long as possible, even to the point of trying to make the new place remind of the homeland, the newcomers can possibly have considerable conflicts with the local residents.
Analyzing the peculiarities of the way in which the citizens of the USA treat immigrants, as well as taking a closer look at the way immigrants settle in the new environment, one can possibly offer the means for the former to blend into the American society better, and the way for the latter to get along with immigrants. It seems that the current policy concerning immigrants in the USA is aimed at enhancing the impact of the American culture.
According to what the author of “Are immigrants doing enough to fit into American life?” claims, the American culture is forced into the lives of the immigrants: “Immigration Reform (FAIR), ‘is the old immigrants’ idea that you would never go home, that you were so proud to learn English that you would be insulted if someone spoke your old language. Immigrants are no longer grateful to be here’” (“Are immigrants doing enough to fit into American life?”).
Speaking of the policy which the Americans apply towards immigrants from all parts of the world, one must mention that the idea of the foreigners as the force that poses a considerable threat to the native culture and that the strangers should be feared is not quite new – the phenomenon of such xenophobia has already taken place in the history of the United States.
According to David Cole, “For a brief period in the mid-nineteenth century, a new political movement captured the passions of the American public. Fittingly labeled the ‘Know- Nothings,’ their unifying theme was nativism” (138); and, as Cole assures, the signs of hostility towards immigrants is a recurring tendency, singe it seems to take its toll over the USA population once again.
As Cole explains, “Although they go by different names today, the Know-Nothings have returned. As in the 1850s, the movement is strongest where immigrants are most concentrated: California and Florida” (138). Despite the fact that the current cases of “nativism” are directed towards Catholics and Germans no longer, xenophobia peaks again, this time aiming at the Latin Americans and Mexicans, as well as the former residents of some Asian countries, e.g., Japan, Korea, and so on.
And, even though it is quite easy to understand the fears of the Americans – the culture of the latter is already notorious for borrowing a majority of elements from other cultures nationwide, the concerns of the immigrants are rather reasonable, too. However, despite the above-mentioned considerations, it is still obvious that the fear of immigrants changing the USA culture and the invasion of foreign cultural elements is nevertheless absurd. As Cole explains,
Our society exerts tremendous pressure to conform, and cultural separatism rarely survives a generation. But more important, even if this claim were true, is this a legitimate rationale for limiting immigration in a society built on the values of pluralism and tolerance? (139)
Addressing the issue of helping both parties to understand each other’s culture and traditions, it is necessary to understand that the issues in question touch upon both the perception of the world and the function in the society. In addition, the aspect of age matters considerably. For example, the strategy that suits the adults perfectly well can be completely inacceptable for children, while teenagers need a completely different approach that does not involve any of the elements for the two above-mentioned groups.
Thus, for students, it can be recommended that inclusive education should be allowed. Thus, the students will be able to both interact with the classmates and learn more about the culture of the Americans. As for the adults, certain engagement into the social and political life of the state can possibly be the solution. Meanwhile, one must not forget about the immigrant identity, which immigrants cling close to.
According to Massey and Sancez, the key problem that makes Americans consider immigrants not worthy of their trust is that “By living in American society, immigrants discover the categorical boundaries and meanings that are imposed on them by natives and do the best they can to broker those boundaries and meanings in ways that enhance their well-being” (241). Therefore, once immigrants learn step by step about the American society, and Americans learn more about the foreigners, numerous conflicts can be avoided.
Despite the fact that a lot has done for immigrants to feel completely safe in the USA< there are still certain prejudice that do not allow the local residents to feel completely comfortable with the foreigners living next door. However, it is worth considering the problem from the perspective of the opponents, i.e., the Americans themselves.
It is not that the citizens of the USA are gripped by an epidemics of xenophobia – it is just that the Americans are not aware of the peculiarities of the other countries and nations’ culture, and fear that, once accepted completely, immigrants will show their true colors and turn the city into their own idea of a place to live, disregarding the traditions of Americans themselves.
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Thus, the problem seems to concern both the demands of the immigrants and the fears of the citizens of the United States, which means that a reasonable compromise is essential to solve the issue.
Once both parties realize that their cultural differences are not going to be taken away from them and that no one is going to force them to live in a hostile environment and change their traditions, the argument will be settled once and for all. Hence, it is obvious that, allowing the Americans and the immigrants to see that they will not lose the touch with their cultures once they see more of the other cultures will help to balance each of them and make the USA an even better place to live in.
“Are Immigrants Doing Enough to Fit into American Life?” Current Issues and Enduring Questions: A Guide to Critical Thinking and Argument, with Readings, Ninth Edition, Ed. Barnet, Sylvan, and Hugo Bedau. New York, NY: Bedford/St. Martin’s, 2011. Print.
Bean, Frank D., and G. Stevens. America’s Newcomers and the Dynamics of Diversity, New York City, NY: Russell Sage Foundation, 2005. Print.
Cole, David. “The New Know-Nothingism: Five Myths about Immigration.” Current Issues and Enduring Questions: A Guide to Critical Thinking and Argument, with Readings, Ninth Edition, Ed. Barnet, Sylvan, and Hugo Bedau. New York, NY: Bedford/St. Martin’s, 2011. 138-140. Print.
Massey, Douglas S., & M. Sancez. Brokered Boundaries: Creating Immigrant Identity in Anti-Immigrant Times, New York City, NY: Russell Sage Foundation, 2010. Print.